Gay men…who do you mean when you say that? The gay male population is enormously diverse and had equally diverse health risks. Is you are an older, monogamous fellow, been with your partner 30 years your health risks of heart disease, prostate cancer, etc., are the same as any male your age and lifestyle. But, if you are a 15 year old gay male prostitute living on the street you have a slim chance of making it to your 16th birthday alive not to mention without serious risk of deadly diseases, brutal assault and suicide.
An excellent reference has been prepared by the San Diego LGBT Center, read it! It will open your eyes even if you thought you knew it all before. http://www.thecentersd.org/pdf/health-advocacy/gay-mens-health-fact-sheet.pdf. Most of the health risks particular to gay men related to sex, body image, abuses of all sorts, depression and domestic violence.
Sexually transmitted diseases
Gay men are at greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases than straight men their same age because of sexual practices common in the gay culture. The best prevention is, of course, monogamy but in many sections of the gay culture monogamy is definitely not the norm! In studies of sexual behavior gay men always have been found to have more frequent sex than straight men and…a lot more sex than lesbians! Gay men are at risk for anal cancer, uncommon in straight men, due to the frequency of anal sex practices.
The good news is all of this is preventable by practicing safe sex. Use a condom! I don’t care that they don’t taste good, get the flavored one, but use a condom! And further good news is you can be tested for just about everything (HIV, HPV, hepatitis) and vaccinated for many of the diseases. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking Truvada to help prevent HIV infections. Check their website for more information http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/mens-health/in-depth/health-issues-for-gay-men/art-20047107
Those of us who lived through the AIDS/HIV pandemic a few short decades ago where something like 650,000 died, never want to live through something like that again. It was awful, gay friend after gay friend dying a horrible death, wasted away to a skeleton. The medical community and the government doing next to nothing to find out what it was or how to treat it. Ridiculous rumors and mythology about the disease and how it was spread abounded. Blatant homophobia! Second only to the Nazi extermination of gays in WWII. The epidemic continues today but not as bad because there is testing, early intervention and appropriate drugs which now allow a near normal lifespan. According to the CDC there are 1.8 million Americans infected with HIV/AIDS, 75% of them are gay males, mostly African-American and Hispanic. If you are a gay man of any age, sexually active in a non-monogamous lifestyle, please get tested regularly, see your doctor regularly, there is no reason in this day and age not to do so. People are still dying of HIV/AIDS, the fat lady has not sung yet, so be careful, use common sense, it takes just one drunken, drugged out lapse in judgement to become infected.
In a peculiar irony men who live outside the norms of heterosexual society have developed very rigid cultural norms of our own. In many parts of the gay men culture there are strict body image rules. Young, thin, sculpted musculature, short hair, and fashionable dress with narrow definitions so that everyone looks very much the same. So, not only is there a risk of anorexia and bulimia about the same experienced by high fashion models to keep up with the norms but the psychological pressures are immense. The rigid physical norms are accompanied by social norms based on highly sexualized repartee, sarcasm and generally bitchy unsupportive banter. There are few support groups for men as compared to support groups for lesbians. Social events are seen as opportunities for picking up a sexual partner or as a free-for-all of criticism as opposed to a relaxing afternoon with friends. It isn’t usually until a gay man is older that he is able to break free of the rigid norms and be himself. I had a friend that cried for week when he turned 40, thinking his life was over. I am happy to report that he recovered and went on to live happily ever after into old age. He even got fat.
Gay men face all the same aging health risks as straight men of high blood pressure, cholesterol, prostate, colon and testicular cancers. These risks are primarily related to lifestyles but all have an inherited risk as well, so you never know when diagnosed with cancer especially if it was something you could have prevented or it was just the fickle finger of fate. It could be too that we have polluted ourselves into these diseases and in a few years someone will figure that out and save us all.
Gay men face a more intense isolation as they age. There are some “old folk’s homes” built by the LGBT community but not near enough to ensure that all of us can find a comfortable retirement community or nursing home facility if needed. And they are usually for the rich. If you are poor and old and gay you are more likely to be in a straight facility that probably will not allow conjugal visits from your partner, and you risk social isolation if you decide to come out to your fellow residents.
Within the LGBT communities gay men are more likely to be battered by a partner, even a temporary partner than lesbians. It is hard to say if men are just more violent than women, or the pressure are more intense on gay men but there it is. Men do seem to beat up on just about everyone more than women. Notice that is men who go marching off to war, for instance. I have also noticed that men who are not comfortable with their sexuality are more likely to react violently than women who are not comfortable with their sexuality. Like somehow it is more offensive to be a gay man than a lesbian. Maybe we should teach our male children to cry as a way to make them more human when they grow up.
Depression and substance abuse
Being vilified but the mainstream society, not being supported particularly by your own gay brothers especially if you don’t fit the slim, trim, hip norm, not understood by your parents, risk being fired from your job if they find out who you really are…geez! No wonder gay men are depressed! The circumstances of our lives are depressing. And no wonder we turn to alcohol and drugs as a way of self-medicating our impossible lives. Thank goodness things are changing, not fast enough for some who have already left us via suicide. Life is looking up for most LGBT folks in the US. Still pretty dicey in places like Uganda that just passed a law declaring homosexuality a capital offense. But most of us have access to mental health services and now there are many LGBT therapists available. Contact Gaylesta for a referral near you http://gaylesta.org If you are struggling with an addiction Alcohols Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have LGBT support groups. http://www.aa.org/ and http://www.na.org
Don’t worry be happy
The bottom line is most LGBT folks are happily living their lives without undue stress. We are getting married, having children by a number of very creative means, we now see ourselves in the media all the time and for the moment the stigma of being LGBT has lifted. There are risks of course, but most of them can be avoided with common sense. Alcohol and drugs negate most common sense and put you at risk for something you may not have been at risk for if you hadn’t got drunk. Think about it!